South African Becomes Chess Grandmaster
Life for 33-year old Kenny Solomon could have been very different had he not taken an interest in chess. Determined to not become a statistic in a community where gang culture and drug abuse are rife, Solomon taught himself the game of chess after reading a book about former world champion Anatoly Karpov. Two years later, Solomon won the national under-16 championship.
Solomon was awarded the grandmaster title after winning the Africa individual chess championship in Namibia last month. He is only the second grandmaster in sub-Saharan Africa after Amon Simutowe of Zambia and the very first South African to have been awarded the honour.
“I was exposed to gang culture from an early age,” Solomon said. “I realised that if I didn’t create my own future, I would merely become a pawn in this scene, trapped in the violent, oppressive cycle of gangsterism. Strong family values and my early interest in chess kept me away from these influences and compelled me to make choices about my fate.”
Although he currently lives in Italy where he competes on the European circuit, Solomon always returns to his home town, Mitchells Plain, to give back to the community and share his knowledge. Along with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS), Solomon has organised various exhibitions in which he has both participated and taught youth about the game.
Solomon is a symbol of what can be achieved. He has shown that South Africans from Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, can compete with the best in the world. The Department would like to congratulate Kenny on receiving this notable international honour.
Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Theuns Botha, said: "Kenny Solomon is a prime example of the hero that we would like our youth to look up to – someone who makes the best of opportunities, and who exceeds all expectations. I hope I have the opportunity to congratulate him personally on his next visit to his home town."